CLINTON – Lamar Christian’s debut on the big stage didn’t end at all like it wanted.
Magnolia Heights used a big finishing burst in the first half to assume command, and the Lions never recovered in a 57-33 loss to the Chiefs in the opening round of the MAIS Overall State Tournament at Wood Coliseum on the campus of Mississippi College.
Lamar Christian, playing for the first time in the Overall, finished its season 23-11. Magnolia Heights (33-5) advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinal round against Simpson.
“We seemed to be a little bit mesmerized maybe by the stage we were on,” said Lamar Christian coach Drew Smith.
“It’s definitely different shooting in a coliseum than it is to a normal high school gym. But we fought back, and it was a close game in the first half.”
It was at that.
Despite their wide-eyed start, the Lions stayed in the game through the first quarter and into the second. Joshua Hobson’s drive down the right side of the lane for a layup tied the game 16-16 midway through the second quarter.
Then the Chiefs took over. Michael Murfree drove through the lane to give Magnolia Heights the lead for good, igniting a 10-0 run to end the half.
“The way we finished the first half was a crucial part of the game,” Smith said. “We got a little impatient on the offensive end, which resulted in turnovers, and those turnovers resulted in easy baskets for them.”
Lamar Christian turned the ball over on six of its last eight possessions, and was one-and-done on the other two.
In the final minute of the half, Trey Skelton got a 3-point play, then swished a 3-pointer to give Magnolia Heights a 26-16 lead at intermission.
The Chiefs then opened the second half with a 10-2 run and it was all over for the Lions.
“They were well disciplined on the defensive end,” said Lamar Christian senior Zach Johnson, who led the Lions with 14 points. “They trapped the ball really well, and we made some bone-headed plays.”
At times, the Lions got the shots they wanted close to the basket, but couldn’t get them to fall, which led to some frustration and impatience on their part. Lamar Christian only had five offensive rebounds for the game.
The Chiefs had a noticeable size advantage, and after an early feeling-out process, they began to wear Lamar Christian out down low.
“It was just a bunch of back screens, and we weren’t talking very much,” said Lion junior Caleb Bennett. “It was just a low effort on our part. They had a bunch of back-cuts and screens that they were killing us with, and we weren’t paying attention to the man with the ball.”
Magnolia Heights led by as many as 25 points in the second half, as the Lions never could mount a challenge.
“It’s hard to come back from a 16-0 run like that,” Smith said. “Then I think we got a little shook up. You can’t do that against a Triple-A team, because of their experience in this type of setting, plus they’re really good.”
Murfree led the Chiefs with 12 points and Skelton added 10.